Let’s discover the 2019 Environmental Report


Every year, data from the Ocean Initiatives waste collection program allows Surfrider Europe to study the origins and evolution of waste pollution in the marine environment. Reported figures highlight the most commonly found items, unusual waste, and which kinds of human activities generate the most pollution, among others. Through this thorough analysis Surfrider Europe is able to raise public awareness this major environmental plague, and alert decision-makers in private and public sectors on the urgency of the situation. This work is vital to reduce the quantity of waste at the source, and reduce this threat on the environment and marine ecosystems. Indeed, every year, more than 8 000 000 tons of plastic waste ends up in the ocean.

What is the Environmental Report?

The Environmental Report is an annual publication documenting the results of the Ocean Initiatives program gathered through citizen science. At the end of every waste collection, participants are asked to complete a feedback form indicating the quantity and types of waste found. This information is used to support Surfrider’s lobby work. By presenting a broad range of concrete data to decision-makers, we are able to raise awareness on the reality and urgency of the problem and influence legislation that protects the marine environment. 

Volunteers: the heart and soul of Ocean Initiatives 

None of this would be possible without Surfrider’s volunteer commitment. Thanks to the report forms completed by participants, we are able to improve our knowledge of marine litter, along with our lobby actions. Through this citizen science process, volunteers play a vital role in the fight against this pervasive pollution. As a result of effective on-the-ground action and community determination, in 2019 the European institutions adopted a Directive aiming to reduce, at source, the 10 most commonly found single use plastic items. 

The Environmental Report in a nutshell

2019 was a historical year with a 60% increase in the number of collections organized. 2279 waste collections were held throughout 54 countries, gathering 83 417 participants.

To best communicate the results, the Environmental Report uses visual comparisons to help readers fully understand the extent of the problem. For example, we learn that 4 027 435 cigarette butts were collected which represents 400 times the height of the Eiffel Tower. We can also note the number of plastic tumblers, 123 874 , represents the height of the Mount Everest.  

Each year, we create a Top 10 list of collected items. In 2019, cigarette butts were number 1, followed by non-identifiable plastic fragments and plastic bags. Without any surprise, 65% of marine litter collected was of single-use, meaning it is used only once before getting thrown away.

Waste like cigarette butts, plastic tumblers, plastic packaging and wipes are unmissable items during waste collections though more unusual items have also been found by participants, such as dentures, skis and televisions.

In addition to common items, the Environmental Report data is segregated by maritime facades because the waste found is not the same depending the country or the zone. Some focus areas shed light on specific waste like biomedia or mermaid tears in order to better understand the scope of Ocean plastic pollution.

Finally, the Environmental Report includes volunteer testimonies from those who have organized Ocean Initiatives and share their experience on the ground.

Read the environmental report

This September will be the official launch of the Ocean Initiatives 2020 season. With the continued support and commitment of our volunteer community, we look forward to making 2020 yet another record-breaking year. 

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